As in any other sectors, laws governing gender-based violence may well be in place in a country but the problem, as always, lies in the implementation and enforcement of these laws. Various factors, mainly cultural attitude, social norms and institutional weaknesses, often impede victims of violence from exercising their rights and protecting themselves. A 2010 video documentary entitled A Country for My Daughter examines these aspects in South Africa, which has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world.
The film documents one woman’s journey in search of a safer world for her young daughter. She travels across South Africa to learn from victims of violence and their brave moves towards exercising their rights and transforming the laws for the better. The stories are grim and suggest antagonistic societal norms as well as apathy among other women (who statistically outnumber men as victims) and their perpetrators (generally men and also institutional representatives, such as the police, lawyers and judges that are there to protect the victims from violence and crime). At the same time, the film portray examples of pioneers within these very groups (lawyers, judges, rights activists), who have contributed to improving the situation. What is especially interesting is that, in most cases, already-existing laws were used in bringing justice to the victims. In this regard, the film is empowering and educational, not just to South Africans but to anyone in any country attempting to find justice in similar cases.
The film’s director, Lucilla Blankenberg, explains that this movie has been the most difficult she has ever made, not only because of the content but also in the difficulty in protecting these women from unintended consequences arising from the exposure of their cases. Most of the characters are missing in the film and, according to the director, this reflects the peril faced by victims standing for their rights and the taboo around the subject in the country. To address this problem, the movie has been extended into a project. A 59-page training manual has been designed, which accompanies the film and provides a comprehensive and informative discussion on the subject of gender-based violence.
The manual is intended to be used to educate rights activists and communities about gender-based violence. The manual is compartmentalized into different components of gender-based violence, which accompany case studies illustrated in the film. The training materials provide information on accessing rights, conducting discussions on the subject, and how to resolve impediments that come along the way.
The resounding message imparted by the film is that the struggle against gender-based violence must extend beyond the courtroom and into communities in order to transform cultural attitudes and societal norms that have been the real impediments toward securing justice for the victims.
Photo Credit: Jocke (Flickr User)